Afghans residing legally to be deported if found involved in political activities, says Bugti

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Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Friday said that any Afghan residing legally in the country if found engaging in political activities would be deported.

In November, the caretaker government had initiated a nationwide campaign to deport illegal foreign nationals, the majority of whom are Afghans. While the decision had prompted criticism from Afghanistan and several other quarters, the government has refused to budge, insisting the move is not aimed at any particular ethnic group.

Of the more than four million Afghans living in Pakistan, the government estimates 1.7m are undocumented. So far, thousands of Afghans have returned home from the Torkham and Chaman border crossings.

Providing an update on the deportation drive in an Islamabad press conference today, Bugti announced that the government had devised a new policy for legal Afghan residents, refugees with Afghan Citizen Cards or other relevant identification.

“They cannot participate in any political activity in Pakistan, they have nothing to do with Pakistan’s politics. Around 10 people have been identified initially, and the number is growing [of those] involved in political activities and they are being deported.”

Bugti said the policy would be implemented across the board against all categories of Afghans with legal documentation, including those with business or tourist visas.

He added that “visa holders from other countries or those on a business visa or any other visa or with any other status” would also be expelled if they participated in political activities.

The interior minister said that with the February 8 general elections inching closer, such individuals would be deported as soon as possible. He said the government was searching for such individuals, adding that he would provide an updated count within a week.

“Pakistanis have to engage in politics, we have the right to politics and we will carry it out while remaining within the Constitution.”

The interior minister said 482,845 people had left the country through various borders under the government’s deportation drive, with 90 per cent or slightly more returning voluntarily.

Bugti said the first phase of the deportation drive was still under way, adding that “ultimately everyone has to go back in the second stage […] Finally, the time is coming when only Pakistanis will live in Pakistan.”

The minister said that whoever wanted to come to Pakistan would have to do so legally. He claimed the figures showed there was no substance to the perception being perpetuated in the media about the “manhandling” of refugees or their harassment.